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January 17, 2015
• Stadio Carlo Castellani, Empoli
Referee: D. Doveri
• Attendance: 13449
Inter join their city rivals Milan on 26 points, while Empoli match Torino on 19 points. That's all we have time for this evening. Thanks a lot for joining me, Tom Webber. Have a great night.
FULL TIME - Empoli 0-0 Inter: It's a fourth consecutive goalless draw at home for the Tuscan outfit, but they were, by and large, the better team on the night. Vidic, Palacio and Pucciarelli both had chances to score the winner in the second half, but it wasn't to be.
90' + 3'
Yellow Card Gary Medel
90' + 3'
There is the final whistle! The spoils are shared in Tuscany.
90' + 1'
We are into the first of three added minutes.
Shaqiri races away down the right but is dispossessed as he tries to shake of Croce. The Empoli man hesitates on the ball, though, and the Swiss immediately wins it back. He spots Hernanes on the other side of the pitch but upon receiving the ball, the former Lazio man fires harmlessly wide.
Time is running very short for the two teams now, but neither side are showing any real urgency to attack and score a goal which would earn them all three points.
Yellow Card Nemanja Vidic
Vidic goes through the back of Maccarone and is shown a yellow card for his challenge.
Hernanes dribbles down the left wing before heading inside to probe the central areas. He squares the ball for Shaqiri but the Swiss is denied a debut goal as his shot is blocked by the nearest Azzurri shirt.
Pucciarelli, who has been very lively this evening, comes off to be replaced by Tavano.
Oh! The assistant referee on the near side slips following a change in direction. Heroically, he still manages to get his flag up, but he receives treatment following his trip to the deck! Fortunately he is fine to continue for the remainder.
Time is running out for either time to find a winner here, now. Is it going to be a fourth consecutive 0-0 draw at home for Empoli?
Shaqiri bends the ball into the box but Maccarone gets his head to it to clear the threat. Empoli break through Pucciarelli down the left, and his strike partner, and former Middlesbrough striker, gets up in support to win a corner.
Guarin and Croce battle for a 50-50 ball on the right wing, and it is the Colombian who comes off worse. The referee awards the visitors a free kick which Shaqiri will deliver.
Well wide from Guarin! Kovacic passes to his left for the Colombian, and he feigns to shoot to create space to get an effort away. Rather than go for a trademark thunderbolt he attempts to curl the ball into the top corner and he completely misses the target.
On comes Shaqiri to make his debut! Podoslki is the man to make way, so can the Swiss have a positive influence on his first Nerazzurri appearance?
GOOD SAVE! Maccarone slips a pass into the box for the run of Zielinski and the Pole manages to stab it towards the near post. Handanovic is positioned perfectly to make the stop, and his side are awarded a free kick seconds later as Empoli try to regain possession.
Mchedlidze's night comes to an early end, with Massimo Maccarone coming on in his place.
Empoli have had the Nerazzurri penned back inside their own half for quite a while now. Guarin dallies in possession inside his own box and loses out to Zielinski. The Polish feeds Mchedlidze but the striker can only dig out a tame effort which is straight at Handanovic.
Mchedlidze comes out to the right and manages to wriggle away from his marker and drive into the box along the byline. He quickly comes up against Vidic, though, and has to settle for a corner.
Empoli make their first change of the night with Verdi departing to make way for Piotr Zielinski.
PUCCIARELLI! Similarly to his chance earlier in the half, the striker breaks in on the left-hand side of the box. Again he searches out that far corner, and once more Handanovic gets a hand on it. The ball ricochets off Guarin and is heading into the net but Andreolli hooks it clear.
Mchedlidze is becoming increasingly frustrated as he struggles to make a mark on the game with limited service. He needs to be careful as he's already on a booking.
Guarin clips a brilliant pass in behind the defence for Palacio to chase, but the backspin on it holds the ball up. Palacio manages to keep it under his control, though, and he lays it off to the Colombian as he follows his pass up the right. Podolski arrives at the back post but cannot connect with the cross.
Mancini makes his second change of the night, with Icardi, who has been exceptionally quiet tonight, making way for Kovacic.
GOOD SAVE! Empoli come straight back at the visitors and Pucciarelli receives the ball inside the box. He attempts to fire a shot inside the far corner but Handanovic gets a hand to it and D'Ambrosio mops up by sending the loose ball behind!
Yellow Card Levan Mchedlidze
JUST WIDE! Palacio comes agonisingly close to opening the scoring but he directs his header wide of the upright following a cross from the right! That was another great chance.
Mchedlidze goes in wildly on Icardi, lunging in with two feet and earning himself a yellow card. That was a very clumsy challenge!
Valdifiori tries his luck with an effort from the top of the box but he snatches at it and is unable to hit the target. It's been a much-improved start to this half when compared to how the opening 45 minutes went.
BEST CHANCE OF THE GAME! Podolski's corner from the right is missed by Sepe, and Vidic is on hand to connect with a header. His contact is good but his effort shades the outside of the upright on its way behind for a goal kick.
Pucciarelli receives a pass on the left corner of the box but his touch is poor and it enables Guarin to get between him and the ball. The Colombian knocks it aside and is clipped by the striker as he moves to clear it, resulting in a free kick to the visitors.
Inter get to the corner first but fail to clear it, and Valdifiori finds Verdi inside the box. He has his back to goal so he spins towards the top of the area, only to see his effort blocked en route to goal!
Hysaj has been very adventurous so far this evening, and again he pushes up on the right and wins a corner for his side as his delivery is deflected behind by Medel.
We're back underway! There's been a change at the break with Ranocchia having to go off due to injury, and Marco Andreolli is his replacement.
Welcome back! The teams are out, so the second half will begin momentarily.
HALF TIME - Empoli 0-0 Inter: It remains all square at the Castellani, and, although the hosts have largely been the better side, there is still no breakthrough to report. Hysaj's fifth-minute drive was probably the best effort of the first half, so things can only get better after the break! Stay tuned for it.
45' + 1'
A corner from the left is nodded wide by Rugani and the referee subsequently signals for half time!
There will be just one minute of time added on to the end of this half.
Ranocchia is down and receiving treatment with the medical staff after a collision with Croce. The stretcher is brought on but he hobbles off to the side to receive more attention.
A couple of shaky moments for Handanovic! The Slovenian first kicked a clearance straight into touch and then he fails to connect with a corner despite coming from his line to claim it. Hysaj keeps it alive on the right but Mchedlidze can only turn his cross into the side netting.
We are edging towards the interval now and, although the hosts have largely controlled possession, we remain without a goal. The Nerazzurri will probably be happen to go in level given their start to this game.
WIDE! Mancini's side manage to mount a modicum of pressure on their hosts and it culminates in Guarin missing the target with a powerful shot from 25 yards.
Icardi have been starved of service so far this evening with his team-mates forcing him to chasing long balls in behind the defence. The latest one is impossible for him to catch, and Sepe gathers it without any fuss.
Empoli have two corners in quick succession, with the second finding Rugani just behind the penalty spot. He gets his head on the ball and steers his effort well wide of the target to let the visitors off the hook.
The Tuscan side have been impressive so far this evening, with Inter struggling to get the ball out of their own half. Roberto Mancini will be far from happy with what he is seeing given their performance in the 3-1 win over Genoa last time out.
That was a real opening for the Azzurri! Vecino's brilliant through-ball looked ripe for the hitting by Pucciarelli, but the striker fails to connect and blames the challenge from Campagnaro for it. He gives up quickly, though, realising that he ought to have done more to test Handanovic from there.
Inter are struggling to get to grips with this game. Empoli are enjoying more of possession and when the Nerazzurri win it, they immediately fire it long and ultimately hand the ball straight back to their opponents.
Vecino picks up the ball on the right of the box and opts to ignore the option of a cutback to try and find Pucciarelli in the box. His delivery has too much elevation and pace, making it too difficult for the striker to connect with.
OVER THE TOP! Verdi has been lively in the opening stages, and he dribbles across the top of the box before letting fly with a left-footed effort. It sails far above the net, though, failing to worry Handanovic.
Hernanes pops up on the right and does a good job of creating space for himself. He uses it to fire off a shot from 20 yards but it lacks the requisite power to get beyond Sepe and into the far corner.
STAT: Empoli’s last three home games have ended 0-0. Let's hope they don't continue that run tonight!
Almost an own goal! A corner from the right ricochets off Tonelli and is only stopped from finding the back of the net by Barba on the near post. Guarin attempts to latch onto the subsequent rebound but Sepe bravely ensures he is first to it.
Hysaj and Mchedlidze attempt to combine on the right wing, but Medel nips in to stop the Georgian receiving a pass from his team-mate. He clips a long ball over the defence for Icardi to chase, but in his efforts he fouls Rugani and the hosts have a free kick.
Inter are awarded a free kick in a decent position out on the right, but the referee blows his whistle as the keeper claims the ball. He points at Guarin, signalling that the Colombian was pulling on his marker.
STAT: Empoli’s last win over Inter was back in April 2006, when a last-gasp Marco Materazzi own goal secured them a 1-0 win.
Empoli again probe down the left flank, this time with Verdi looking to get in behind the defence and drive into the centre. He knocks the ball beyond Ranocchia but in his attempts to run past the centre-back he fouls him, pulling the Inter man to ground and conceding a free kick.
Barba pushes forward down the left and attempts to slide a pass in behind for Croce, but Ranocchia covers across and puts the ball into touch for a throw in to the hosts.
Mchedlidze goes down inside the box as he attempts to get to a cross from the left under pressure from D'Ambrosio. The referee sees nothing wrong with it, though, and he allows play to continue.
The home side have certainly started this game the brighter of the two. They push on the left and earn a free kick, but Valdifiori's attempt to replicate a training ground move on the pitch is foiled by an interception from the visiting defence.
HYSAJ! The right-back comes into a central position inside the Inter half and receives the ball in space. He takes a touch before hammering a low shot to Handanovic's right which forces the Slovenian to dive down and parry it aside.
There's a fairly lengthy break in play as Campagnaro is penalised for a lunging challenge on Valdifiori inside the centre circle. The home fans feel the first yellow card of the game is already warranted, but the referee refuses to brandish it. The Empoli man gets some treatment and after hobbling off the pitch soon jogs back on.
We are underway!
The time is still not ripe for Xherdan Shaqiri to make his first start in Inter colours, as the Switzerland winger rides the pine once again. Fellow new signing Lukas Podolski does get the nod though, playing on the left side of the front three. Only one change by Mancini from the Genoa game, with Andrea Ranocchia coming back into the team in place of Marco Andreolli.
End-of-an-era feel around the Carlo Castellani this evening, with long-serving captain Davide Moro no longer at the club - he recently joined Lega Pro C outfit Salernitana. Lorenzo Tonelli and Levan Mchedlidze are recalled to the starting XI by Empoli coach Maurizio Sarri.
Inter (4-2-3-1): Handanovic; Campagnaro, Vidic, Ranocchia, D'Ambrosio; Guarin, Medel; Hernanes, Palacio, Podolski; Icardi.
Empoli (4-3-1-2): Sepe; Barba, Rugani, Tonelli, Hysaj; Vecino, Valdifiori, Croce; Verdi; Mchelidze, Pucciarelli.
Empoli haven't won in five games and at present, stand only three points above the relegation zone. They have one of the worst home records in the Italian top flight this campaign, picking up only two wins from their nine games at Stadio Carlo Castellani. Their seven goals scored at home is also good for the worst such mark in the division.
Inter's last game was an impressive 3-1 win at home to Genoa. The Nerazzurri played with the kind of pace and swagger that hasn't been seen around San Siro in a long while. That result came on the heels of a credible 1-1 comeback draw against Juventus. Perhaps the Roberto Mancini effect has begun.
If recent history in this fixture is anything to go by, then Empoli are in trouble. They have lost all of their last six games against the Nerazzurri, scoring only a single goal in the process. In fact, in the last 18 occurrences of this matchup, tonight's home side have emerged victorious only three times.
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the Serie A fixture between Inter and Empoli. The visiting side are in ninth place and have put in some positive performances as of late, while the hosts are in the middle of a winless run either side of the league winter break.
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